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July 28, 2016
Joined up justice: Building an integrated criminal justice system
By: Allan W Fairley

An offender’s progress through the criminal justice system typically involves separate interactions with multiple agencies. From arrest and processing by police, to the court service, then into the prison system and, on release, into the probation service. Each of these services comes under the jurisdiction of a separate agency. Because the end-to-end system is ill-equipped and not designed to pick up on an individual’s underlying problems and circumstances the result is, all too often, that the individual ends up back at the start of the process by re-offending.

The best chance of addressing high levels of
reoffending is if all relevant agencies can come
together to work effectively to provide a
seamless journey towards rehabilitation.

So what needs to happen to break the cycle and drive down the rates of recidivism? The key lies in joining up each individual’s information so that it is consistently passed from agency to agency. That means not only the criminal justice system, but the wider set of social, education and health bodies with which any individual is likely to engage. Of course, that’s easy to say. It’s much harder to put into practice. The desirability of a more holistic approach is widely recognised. Making it happen is running up against a series of barriers that are proving hard to breakdown. Some of these are the political challenges that arise from a number of different departments taking responsibility for discrete parts of the criminal justice system. Not only does this break up the process but these groups compete for budget and resource, and are often reluctant to share information because of mistrust about how it will be used. The best chance of addressing high levels of reoffending is if all relevant agencies can come together to work effectively to provide a seamless journey towards rehabilitation.

The key to achieving this lies in looking to the experience of other industries that have created new ways to approach customer service. By understanding how an individual customer interacts with multiple touchpoints, the decisions made along the way and the outcomes achieved, holistic approaches to customer relationship management (CRM) in industries as diverse as financial services, telecoms and retail help ensure that a customer’s journey from start to finish is as efficient and effective as possible. Rather than seeing customers as an undifferentiated mass, new CRM systems aim to deliver a highly personalised service. In much the same way, criminal justice needs a single case (or "customer") management system. Technology can enable that. But that’s the easy part. The challenge is engineering the cooperation and collaboration between departments.

The only way to address that is to achieve agreement on the outcomes that span across the aims of each department. And that will, in turn, require a coordinating layer sitting across the end-to-end system in order to effectively impose a single, joined-up model that can address the core problems that shape offenders’ behaviour along with the measures that can help prevent them reoffending.

All agencies need to overcome the mistrust
they may have of one another and be open
and share data.

We are seeing some localised examples of this approach in action. Greater Manchester Police, for example, is operating a pilot that brings together different organisations—including the police, education, health and social services—working together on specific cases as a "no-badge" team to ensure that each individual offender receives exactly the support and interventions they need to avoid falling back into the behaviour or circumstances that contributed to their offending in the first place. Each member of the team brings relevant expertise and skills to address every case holistically. They operate beyond their official roles (as policeman, teacher, social worker, etc.) and instead collaborate to address the challenges that stem from an individual’s distinct needs and circumstances. The results of this approach have been, initially, promising. However, to see this replicated nationally will require decisive coordination from the highest levels of government. That requires, first, a definition of what an end-to-end solution should look like and secondly the funding required to deliver it.

It’s commonly recognised by the police and others in the criminal justice system that a relatively small proportion of the population is responsible for the majority of crime. This also reveals that they’re likely to share a number of similar problems and difficult circumstances—from substance abuse and lack of education to homelessness and mental illness—that also need a common approach. It’s therefore not a task for the police alone. All agencies need to overcome the mistrust they may have of one another and be open and share data, so that they can work more effectively to tackle both the causes of crime as well as crime itself.

See this post on LinkedIn: Joined up justice: building an integrated criminal justice system.


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